What is Islam?

by James William Lovegrove (Habeeb-Ullah)


Duty to God and duty to our fellow-beings are the two salient features of every religion in the world. Prayers in Islam stand as an index of the former. It is neither Ritualism nor a formal recitation of words. The Quran deprecates such kind of prayers:

“Woe to the praying ones, who are unmindful of their prayers” (The Holy Quran, 107:4–5).

“It is not righteousness that you turn your faces towards the East and the West, but righteousness is this, that you should believe in Allah, and the last day and the angels” (The Holy Quran, 2:177).

“This is one of the noblest verses in the Quran,”

says Dr. Wherry in his commentary. It clearly distinguishes between a formal and practical piety. Faith in God and benevolence toward man are clearly set forth as the essence of religion. Muhammad [pbuh] says:

“He who in prayer prevents not from wrong and evil increases in naught save remoteness from the Lord.”

These quotations explain the Muslim conception of prayer. It brings man face to face with his Creator, and in the words of the Prophet,

“Brings the faithful into communion with his Cherisher.”

The worshipper, in the Muslim prayer, recites certain attributes of God which work in and control the whole universe. As all morality and righteousness in Islam consists in moulding our conduct after the Divine attributes, prayer comes to remind us of them. We recite certain of the attributes of God when we begin our prayer.

“Imbue yourself with Divine attributes”

is our watchword. God is our Prototype, and all righteousness and piety in Islam consists in fashioning our character and conduct after the Divine attributes, of which we are repeatedly reminded in our prayer.

We also seek His help to keep the right path in all our activities. If we need Divine enlightenment in every step and every moment of life, it is not too much to pray to Him several times a day. When we arise, and when we retire to rest, we say our prayers. When we have finished a portion of our daily life, we again go to prayer, before we minister to our inner man. Then comes the afternoon prayer which closes our daily activities. The words of Jesus,

“that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth from the mouth of the Lord,”

became a reality in Islam. A Muslim looks to the nourishment of his soul, before that of his body. If meals are necessary to sustain the physical nature, prayers are as necessary for the sustenance of the soul.